Sound — 8
As all of Les Claypool's projects are, Of Whales and Woe is an interesting, but sometimes flawed work. Starting off with "Back Off Turkey" (his children did much of the percussion for this song) gives a bad first impression. It is muddled and repetitive, reminiscent of the opening track for The Purple Onion, another album that Les Claypool headed. This bad first impression is immediately shattered however, when the strongest track of the album, "One Better", plays. This is one of Les Claypool's best songs, with an unbelievably funky groove and is performed by a group of virtuosoes of their respective instruments. Some other highlights of the album include "The Phantom Patriot", "Of Whales and Woe", "Rumble of the Diesel", and "Nothing Ventured". All songs have a distinct feeling, yet feel like a cohesive tracklisting. And finally, "Robot Chicken" is a throwaway track included to draw fans of the show.
Lyrics — 9
The lyrics of this album are typically Claypool, by which I mean incredibly odd by mainstream standards. "The Phantom Patriot" contains the best lyrics of the album. It is about a delusional vigilante who attempts to perform heroic deeds, but is captured in the process, leading to the line: "And though it's not intended, our hero soon is apprehended. 'The Phantom Patriot' in Sharpie, written boldly 'cross his shirt". Genius stuff. One of the closing tracks, another story revolving around a character, is "Filipino Ray". This song details a guitarist with a drinking problem and is done in a novel way. Note that I would have, without hesitation, given the "Lyrics" section of this review a solid "10" if it wasn't for "Love Stings". As Les Claypool has said, for better or worse, "Love Stings is the scrotum (of the body of) this album".
Overall Impression — 9
Overall, the question of whether or not you will enjoy this album rests on how much you like Claypool and how much tolerance you have. Some might dismiss songs such as "Vernon the Company Man" and "Iowan Gal" as boring and repetitive, but the stories behind them and the novel presentation invites multiple listens. Although this album doesn't rock out like Primus, this album is a must for Les Claypool fans.